On Sept. 20, category 4 hurricane Maria made landfall near Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. The historic hurricane brought complete devastation to the Caribbean island, knocking out power for all of its three million plus residents, destroying entire villages and cutting off communication with loved ones.
Reggaeton star Nicky Jam, who was born in Boston, but moved to Puerto Rico when he was 10, flew back to the island within days of the hurricane’s hard hit after being unable to reach his family.
Now, with his children safe, the “El Perdon” singer is teaming up with Unidos Por Puerto Rico, a campaign started by the First Lady of Puerto Rico, working to bring aid to the people.
Nicky Jam, who on Oct. 2 will fly back to Puerto Rico with supplies alongside Luis Fonsi, Ricky Martin and other stars, tells PEOPLE about the emotional aftermath of Hurricane Maria, how he’s joining forces with other Latino stars and his plans to help rebuild.
It’s the worst feeling in the world. You don’t know what happened to your family and the news is showing you that it’s the worst thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico. It’s a feeling you get in your stomach. You get nervous. But I have a lot of faith in God, I believe a lot in God. I said, “Everything is going to be okay.”
It was scary because all my family was separated. One of my daughters took the most time for me to know if she was okay. Because there was no communication, I had to go to Puerto Rico and go to her house.
I went and I picked up my two daughters and my sister. My dad didn’t want to leave. The culture of Puerto Rico is not to evacuate like the States — they don’t do that. They’re not used to that, probably because we’re the Caribbean and we’ve been fighting hurricanes our whole lives. But at least I’m okay knowing that all my family is okay; my grandmother is okay, my father is okay, my sister is okay.
I took generators to their houses. I took generators to people I didn’t know. I went to a couple of places — in New York they call them the projects, in Puerto Rico they call them caserios — and took some food. Right now, I don’t think it’s even the money they need, they just need food. They need a lot more things than money right now.
Puerto Rico looks like a tsunami came and took it back to 1940 … it’s incredible. If the country was already in a bad situation, this took it back 40, 50 years. It looks really crazy. Trees everywhere, houses with no roofs, everybody outside their houses because there’s no air conditioning, there’s no light, there’s no nothing. It’s really sad what’s happening in Puerto Rico.
What I did see was that everybody is trying to help each other out in the neighborhoods. You see people who do have generators with extension cords to other houses so other people can have their refrigerator hooked up, everybody outside trying to keep it together.
When I went to Puerto Rico, I had a curfew — they told me I had to come back at 4 o’clock because after it was dark, the planes can’t come back out. It was so little that I saw, but I know how Puerto Rico is and I know everybody is together helping each other.
This is the moment. This is the moment where you know who is a real Puerto Rican.
I feel that Latin pride that we have makes us unite, help each other and be there for each other. It’s a beautiful thing because I think that these are hard times right now. I think this is the moment where Latinos should stick together and most of all, just pray to God. I’m 36 years old and I haven’t seen a worse time than right now.
The message I want to get to Puerto Rico is that we’re doing something. It’s a hard moment, but a lot of people are helping. I’m seeing the power and I’m seeing what everybody is doing and it’s awesome. Marc Anthony is doing an incredible job, Luis Fonsi is doing an incredible job, Jennifer Lopez is doing a beautiful job, I’m doing the most I can do. You’ll see — it’ll come through.
The good thing is that people care, we care, and that’s what I want to tell Puerto Rico: Don’t worry, we care.
It’s a hard thing because right now Mexico is going through something worse and I would love to help Mexico, but my country is my country. As soon as I know I did the movements for my country, I will jump to Mexico. I will do whatever I have to do for Mexico. If I have to give a show away, it’s only two hours on stage and those two hours can change so much.
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I left Puerto Rico 10 years ago and the mentality of a lot of people is, well, you know, he’s not from Puerto Rico — he came back [after] his career in Colombia. Colombia gave me my second opportunity. But even if another country adopts you and gives you so much love, you still feel in your soul you’re Puerto Rican. I always loved Puerto Rico, I always had Puerto Rico in my heart. I do love Colombia and I owe a lot to Colombia, but I can’t stop feeling like a Puerto Rican.
When this happened, I really reconnected with my island and with my country. I said, “I got to step up and be there.” My mentality is, God gave me this position and my career right now so I can help my country. I feel like I have a responsibility.
I just want to tell everybody that I love them and that I’m working for them. I’m not going to let them down.